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Families of COVID-19 patients say goodbye virtually

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — A nurse at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts has seen firsthand how COVID-19 can affect a family, especially when they have to say goodbye to a loved one.

With hospital restrictions in place, it’s difficult for family members to visit their loved ones face to face. But one nurse helped make it possible through technology.

It may look like an ordinary iPad to many, but for families who have loved ones in the hospital, the iPad was their connection.

“I would use the iPad and I would connect a family. I would arrange the calls beforehand and I would connect people,” said Mindy Grant, an assistant nurse manager at Baystate. “Sometimes, I would be in the room for hours until somebody passed.”

Over the last year, Grant has helped facilitate this virtual connection. She said it also helps convey the medical team’s updates so families can see the care being provided.

“We had a lot of patients who were obviously at the end of their life and families couldn’t be present, whether they lived across the country,” she said. “At the time, they only let two visitors in. So you might have three siblings that may want to see the parent that isn’t doing well, and oftentimes, you would have 10 people on the video.”

Grant says families often need guidance on how to talk to their loved one at the end of life. She encourages them to talk as they normally would, telling stories, playing music and just being there.

“I love working with people at end of life, so I volunteered to be the hands for the family,” she said. “I would put a cold washcloth on somebody’s head. I would tell them I was squeezing their hand. I would be probably more affectionate than I was supposed to be during COVID, but that physical touch is so important.”

Grant said though she carries the weight of the loss she sees, it’s an experience she will never forget.

“You get really close to patients and their families, and we go to funerals and we go to wakes. We go to all those things for our patients,” she said. “I know some people may say it’s not the best thing to do, but when you get that close to people, you want to honor the life that they had, and that’s how you do it.”

Baystate Health has now loosened its restrictions for end-of-life patients, allowing more family members inside.

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